KTSM News Channel 9, the local NBC affiliate in El Paso, Texas has been very critical of the actions of the El Paso Police Department and its accusations from residents of police abuse. They have ran stories for the last few weeks now not letting up on the constant coverage and criticism of the action or lack of by the department and its Internal Affairs division.
I agree that someone needs to look over the police department and I am in favor of a civilian oversight committee to help investigate police abuse accusations. El Paso has been plagued with police abuse dating back a couple police chiefs. Someone has to start policing the police and put and end to it.
The news station has reported on its newscast on how several El Pasoans have been harassed or have been victims of excessive force by police officers and that their complaints were not investigated properly. Kudos for them for doing that. But are they really reporting these stories because they want it to stop or are they reporting it just because it gets them good ratings?
I ask this very important question because not too long ago News Channel 9 had an employee who was in the middle of a police abuse investigation. Did they report it on the 10 o'clock news? No they didn't. Why?
The employee had been harassed for over four years by a couple police officers. The employee had made several Internal Affairs reports of excessive force and abuse only to be retaliated against by the police officers for doing so. The employee was arrested time and time again and gathered a collection of charges. A story was written about his complaints in June of 2006 by El Diario but was ignored by every other media outlet. The employee brought it to the attention of one of the anchors, Ben Swann, but did not mention the name of the officers or supervisors involved. After about a week of going back and forth over e-mail the employee felt comfortable enough to tell the anchor the names of the officers and supervisors involved.
All communications came to a screeching halt. Ben Swann avoided the employee at all cost. He would avoid the employee in the halls, Ben would go out of his way to not walk by the employees desk even though the desk was on the way to the recording studio. He stopped responding to e-mails and stopped answering the employee's phone calls. The employee was arrested once more a week later and was held in jail for five days. The employee notified News Channel 9 of his arrest immediately as he was being arrested. In fact he notified his employers before he even notified his family. When released the employee sat down with management and explained what had happened for the last for years and told them that the police officer once again had arrested him and charged him with a crime he did not commit. Management fired the employee anyway and said that they did not want an employee who had so many problems. The employee was asked to empty out his desk, asked to turn in his keys and was escorted out of the building.
The former employee was forced to let justice take its course. His family hired what they were told was a good lawyer. Boy were they mistaken.The lawyer wanted him to sign for a "good deal" he had got him. The lawyer said he would get out in half the time since the prisons were so full in Texas. But the employee refused to spend one day in prison for a crime he did not commit and did not sign the offer from the District Attorney's Office. An overzealous Assistant District Attorney had been trying to put the former employee in prison for the last four years due to the constant arrest by the abusive police officer.
The former employee had his day in court. He went against his lawyers advice and testified on his on his own behalf. It was the first time in almost five years of being drug through the judicial system that the former employee was able to speak his mind in court. It worked! The judge heard the former employee speak from his heart. The former employee spoke about all the times the police officer had arrested him. He talked about being followed by the officer at work and at restaurants, he talked about the beatings and about the tazing he endured. He spoke about how he had lost everything he ever had because of the police officer's actions. He lived in fear not knowing when the next beating was coming or if he would spend twenty years in prison for a crime he did not commit. The former employee remembered every detail of the day in question. After being falsely accused so many times he was forced to look at a crime scene like an investigator.
The officer took the stand and was asked a series of questions. He gave three different versions of what happened. His palms were sweaty and he was looking down and could not make eye contact with the judge. The judge was able to see that the officer was lying. The judged stopped the hearing and dropped all the charges on the former employee. The judge also put an order that kept the police officer and four fellow police officers 200 yards away from the former employee. Was that vindication?
The former employee's lawyer stood up, shook his hand and told him congratulations. The former employee pulled back his hand and asked. Congratulations for what? What just happened? Why don't I feel happy?
The former employee had lost his job, his residence, his vehicle and the ability to see his son thanks to five years of harassment and abuse by police officers. Yet News Channel 9 did not rehire the former employee after all charges were dropped.
Who is News Channel 9 to talk about not properly investigating police abuse accusations? They turned their backs on an employee that told them he was a victim of police abuse. Maybe he should have approached them during rating sweeps. The former employee attempted to talk to the media in the past but was ignored. The former News Channel 9 employee thinks its time to start talking about his ordeals with the El Paso Police department and his former employer again.